Coloni's Coletti looking forward to home event
22 May 2012
Despite his most Italian of names, 23-year-old Stefano Coletti is a Monegasque - which is another way of saying that he was born and raised in Monte Carlo, and the streets of principality famous to generations of motor racing fans were just his back yard as a kid growing up.
This week he'll be taking to those same familiar streets once again, but for rather different reasons than popping out for a litre of milk. Instead, it will be his second time in GP2 at his home event.
"My home race is always a special moment of the season," said Coletti as he prepared for the fifth round of the 2012 GP2 season. "The motivation to get good result is even stronger than in other rounds."
The notoriously tight and tricky street course puts a special premium on a good starting grid position, which Coletti knows all too well as he looks ahead to the qualifying session on Thursday afternoon, which this week will have a, exceptional format to the rest of the GP2 season.
"Qualifying has always played a crucial role in Monaco, and the choice to split drivers in two groups will allow us to get clear track more easily, which should limit sensibly the problem of being stuck in traffic," said Coletti, after news that the 26-car field would be split into two 13-car groups each with just 14 minutes to set the best lap. A lottery will decide which group first - that of the even-numbered cars, or that of the odd-numbered ones.
"Overtaking will be difficult anyway in the races therefore we put great care in the single lap performance aiming to start as much to the front as possible," he added.
Coletti is hoping that a little local knowledge and a lot of support from the fans will boost him to another podium position, following on from his third place finish in the Barcelona feature race two weeks ago.
It's not just Coletti but the entire Scuderia Coloni team that is looking forward to the Monaco weekend, and sees it as a very special occasion for all concerned.
"People usually say that a win in Monaco is like winning a title, so that gives an idea of how special this venue is for motorsport," said team principal Paolo Coloni. "For us, this year it will be even more so because the local hero is racing with us, so the event feels like an home race: the whole team feels this responsibility and the guys are focused and ready to give their best.
"Obviously Stefano wants a great result here and we want that too, so our aim is to be quick right from Free Practice and then get a very good result in Qualifying, as the starting position is one of the keys to a good race here in Monaco," he added, endorsing his driver's thoughts.
For Coletti's team mate, GP2 Series rookie Fabio Onidi, the weekend will undoubtedly be an amazing new experience for the 24-year-old Italian driver.
"Monaco is special to any racing driver: it's in the history of our sport, it has been the background for incredible acts by the motorsport heroes of the past, a win there has more value that anywere else," he enthused. "That's the emotional side of it, the fact that from the cockpit I will see the same scenario that I've seen in all those F1 onboard-cameras throughout the years."
But as evocative and glamorous as Monaco is for any racing driver, it's also a fiendishly difficult circuit to race on in modern cars.
"It's a track that gives no room at all for a mistake, it pushes you to the outer limit of your skills, it's a real challenge," he agreed. "And I will be facing that for the first time in my career, in my first GP2 season. It's enough to feel a bit nervous!"
"Monte Carlo isn't an easy track for a rookie, but Onidi has the talent and the skills to learn quickly," insisted Paolo Coloni. "We count on him to bring home a good team result like we did in Barcelona."
Of course, Onidi has been working hard on the race simulator ahead of the weekend to try and get as much knowledge of the challenge that lies in store as possible.
"Sure it helps," he said. "It gives you a very good idea of the track, the lines, the braking points, and a first glimpse of how close the walls are in Monaco. But in the sim you can crash as much as you want, there's no real damage, and it doesn't hurt. Being there and seeing the Armco so close will be a different story I'm sure.
"It's a really special track, the more laps you do the more you learn about its details, the spots that provide more grip, the little bumps, all those tricks that can help you improving your laptime or keeping the same pace with less risks," he continued. "There are drivers on the grid with much more Monaco experience than me, so I will just try to make the most of the weekend."
As well as the unfamiliar track and the novelty of the split qualifying decision, Coloni - like all the GP2 teams this weekend - will have a one-off change to the tyres being supplied to them by Pirelli. Instead of three sets of prime tyres (Pirelli's soft compound this weekend) and one of the options (super-soft) normally issued, this week all the teams will get two sets of each compound.
"Monaco is sure to be one of the biggest challenges that they will face all year," explained Pirelli racing manager Mario Isola. "The key to success is staying out of trouble, so our P Zero compounds are designed to give as much control and precision to the drivers as possible. With very little aerodynamic downforce available, the cars rely mostly on mechanical grip.
"With two sets of the softer compound available to them at any point in Monaco, the GP2 drivers will need to think really carefully about when to use them, but they will end up with more experience of running on a faster compound, which needs to be wisely managed," he added.
"The new tyre rules for GP2 are an exciting development that will introduce a bigger element of tyre strategy and management to the race weekend, making the GP2 Series even better preparation for the very pinnacle of racing."
GP2 schedule for Monaco
In order to fit around Monaco's unique shifted timetable, the 30-minute practice session for GP2 cars will be held a day earlier than usual on the Thursday at 12 noon local time (11am BST), with the new-look two-part qualifying session following at 4.55pm (3.55pm BST).
The schedule see the 42-lap feature race held on Friday morning at 10.30am (9.30am BST) while the 30-lap sprint race will be held on Saturday afternoon at 4.10pm (3.10pm BST) following the qualifying session for the F1 Grand Prix of Monaco. Coverage of all GP2 sessions will be available in the UK on Sky Sports F1.
The GP3 Series is also undertaking its first-ever Monaco race weekend this year. Practice will be on Thursday at 6.15pm (5.15pm BST), qualifying on Friday morning at 7.40am (6.40am BST) and the first race at 12.30pm (11.30am BST). The second race will be on Saturday at 5.55pm (4.55pm BST).